Families undergoing separation often experience high levels of anxiety and stress born out of uncertainty regarding their future and difficulty in coping with their new lives. Financial hardships and parental distress may give rise to changes in behaviour that threaten the emotional and physical well-being of the family. In such cases, an early detection and intervention program can be very useful in helping families lead normal lives.

The Family Law DOORS (Detection Of Overall Risk Screen) program

DOORS is a three-part empirical screening tool and framework that family law practitioners and separation service professionals can use to detect and manage well-being and safety risks in separated families, and thus ensure a healthy environment for growth and development of children in such families. It is an evidence-based tool that uses facts and responses to enable practitioners to develop an action plan to meet these risks. It is targeted at separated families where former partners wish to continue their parenting responsibilities.

The tool has been reviewed and refined by researchers and leading experts in Australia and abroad. It is a simple and flexible tool that empowers practitioners to provide a refined level of care. The tool does not dictate how to engage with separated parents. Instead, it provides information on the best ways to help them.

The DOORS framework consists of the following parts:

  • Door 1: The first part is a questionnaire that assesses the person’s mental health capacity and his or her ability to manage conflicts. It is a complete list of essential questions that can help professionals make a holistic assessment of their client’s situation and emotional well-being.
  • Door 2:  In the second part, providers identify risk factors and develop a response plan to it, including follow up and referral to an appropriate authority.
  • Door 3: The final part provides specialised follow up and relevant literature to build knowledge and aid management of risk factors. It also gives key tools and frameworks for in-depth assessment, wherever required.

Benefits of DOORS

The DOORS programs brings the following benefits:

  • It facilitates prompt identification of risk factors that threaten the well-being of families, thereby reducing the chances of family violence, including physical and emotional abuse.
  • It helps parents and professionals to meet unique challenges in safe development of children in separated families.
  • It helps separated partners overcome feelings of anger, resentment and despair that can hurt their future and that of their children.
  • It is useful to practitioners across multiple services and disciplines to detect risks of emotional and physical abuse in separated families. These include court staff, lawyers, legal services staff, family dispute resolution practitioners, community mediators and the like.
  • It helps partners effectively share parenting roles and to continue to be involved in their children’s lives, post separation.

The DOORS program is based on the fact that risk is not static. It changes over time in its nature and impact on the involved people. Due to its practical and flexible nature, it has been of great value in helping families manage separations successfully.